The importance of data and analytics in making informed and strategic decisions

A statement on the importance of the use of data and analytics to make informed and strategic decisions; data as a strategic asset; importance of strong institutional support and advocacy; and what it takes to achieve data-informed decision-making

In today’s data-rich world, organizations of all types and sizes are recognizing the value of data as a strategic asset. Whether it is a small non-profit looking to better understand its donors or a large corporation seeking to optimize its supply chain, data and the use of analytics have the power to inform and transform.

In recent years, higher education institutions have also begun to recognize the strategic value of their data. They are increasingly turning to data analytics to inform their decision-making, improve student outcomes, and drive institutional effectiveness.

The Power of Analytics in Higher Education

Analytics has the capacity to be a powerful tool for change in higher education. By leveraging data analytics tools, higher education institutions can gain insights into a wide range of areas, such as student performance, enrollment trends, faculty productivity, and research impact. This information can be used to inform strategic decisions and improve operations in a variety of ways.

For example, data analytics can be used to identify at-risk students and intervene early to help improve their chances of success. Similarly, data analytics can be used to identify patterns in student enrollment, retention and performance that can help institutions to improve their recruitment and retention strategies.

Another example, data analytics can be used to identify which teaching methods are most effective and to understand which professors are having the most positive impact on students’ learning to ensure that the institution’s resources are being allocated in the most effective ways.

Data analytics can also be used to track research outcomes and impact, which can help universities identify the most productive and promising areas of research and to make decisions about how to allocate funding and other resources to these areas.

Overall, the use of data analytics tools in higher education can have a significant impact on improving student outcomes, streamlining operations, and making more strategic decisions. The benefits and change-making capacity of using these tools are clear and it is critical that higher education institutions, including Washington State University, harness the power of their data and employ analytics to stay competitive and to achieve their goals.

WSU’s Commitment to Data Analytics

However, the successful implementation of analytics in higher education requires strong leadership and commitment from the top. At WSU, we are fortunate to have the support and endorsement of leadership in our efforts to integrate data and analytics into our decision-making processes and drive institutional improvements and outcomes. 

The creation of my new unit by President Schulz—the Office of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis—serves as a powerful statement of commitment to utilizing data and analytics to support effective planning and decision-making throughout the WSU system. This unit is focused on putting into place a systemwide data management program to better utilize institutional data and strengthen analytical capabilities to drive robust planning, knowledge discovery, and transparency in decision-making throughout the WSU system.

This type of commitment to analytics by higher education leaders is essential for the successful implementation and integration of analytics into the institution because it sets a tone for the entire WSU system and sends the message that data-informed decision-making is a priority and that we are committed to using data to help drive improvements. Without this commitment from leadership, it is likely that the use of analytics will be limited and siloed, rather than integrated into the fabric of the institution.

Data Management Program at WSU

While the recognition of data and analytics as a strategic asset are essential, there are other crucial components that are necessary to fully leverage our data and achieve meaningful outcomes. These include having a well-defined data strategy, robust data governance, collaboration and partnerships, agile processes, and strategic investments in technology. Additionally, it will be important to focus on fostering a culture that supports data-informed decision-making and encourages innovation, as well as building and supporting a skilled workforce capable of working with digital technologies. All this will help us better serve our students, communities, and ensure WSU’s competitiveness and longevity.

We are making a concerted effort to incorporate these elements into the design and execution of a system-wide data management program, with the goal of aligning them with the objectives and priorities of WSU, as well as with the organization’s culture, structure, and current level of analytics capabilities. These factors will guide the steps we need to take, and it’s worth noting that some of the processes will not be easy and will require flexibility and adaptability. In future blog posts, I will delve deeper into some of the specific challenges we are facing and the strategies we are using to overcome them as we strive to fully leverage our data and analytics capabilities throughout the WSU system.

Chris Hoyt, VP

About the Author

Christine Hoyt is Vice President of Strategy, Planning, and Analysis at Washington State University. She provides oversight and leadership to guide WSU’s system strategic planning efforts.

She serves as a strategic partner with other leaders and planners systemwide to drive alignment of WSU’s campus, college, and unit plans to the system strategic plan and implementation of the institution’s top priorities.